Sunday, June 9, 2024

Waste Management

There is so much talk about the environment and how to save it. A number of artists are showing their support for this effort by using all kinds of recycled materials such as scrap metal, cans, floppy discs, old cassettes, plastic toys etc.

Recycling is, of course, not new. We have repurposed vessels and tools from ancient times. Until the rise of disposable items, it was the norm. But the idea of using discards to create art … when did that happen?

You might think that Recycle Art is fairly new. In the Outsider Art Fair, you can find a number of artists who create what has been called Upcycled Art Works but that Fair only started in 1993. However, already in 1912 Picasso, who has been said to have “invented” collage, used recycled materials with bits of paper, photos, newsprint, and small objects. He did the same with sculpture with bits of wood and other scavenged materials.

Bull’s Head, 1942

Though I lived in New York most of my life I did not know that in 1977 the Department of Sanitation in New York came up with the concept of an arts residency at a waste facility. The first artist to gain the residency was Mierle Landerman Ukeles. She has continued in that position until now as the official unpaid resident. Other sanitation departments have established such residencies as well.

The New York All Street Gallery on Hester Street even had an exhibition of the work of a number of these artists. The show included work by Philadelphia’s Recycle Artist in Residence, Lily Cox-Richard, and Jade Doskow Photographer in Residence from Staten Island who concentrates on the recent history of waste management. This is an example of Cox-Richard's work.

I continue to learn. The headline on this article from Artnet is “Taking Stock: A Massive Group Show Takes over a Queens Pantyhose Warehouse”! Andrew Russeth in this recent article makes a statement I never thought I would see: “Without hosiery, contemporary art would be a great deal poorer. “He continues “for decades, Senga Nengudi has stretched pantyhose into inventive sculptures, Sarah Lucas has dressed uncanny human figures in stockings, and Ernesto Neto has filled hose with all kinds of spices to build beguiling installations. Now those garments, in some sense, have inspired a spirited group show, “Means of Production,” at a warehouse on the edge of Queens with more than 70 participants—a few established, most emerging. You should see it.” Here is a brief video with Senga Nengudi on her use of pantyhose in her art ... 

This November Santa Fe will have its 25th annual Recycled Santa Fe Art Festival with juried adult and student exhibitions. With the work of over 100 artists, it claims to be the largest and oldest Recycle Art market. One of the most popular features has proven to be the highly imaginative fashion show. Here is an image from the Recycled Festival.

What better way to make a statement about recycling than creating art out of what others discard and there is a possible bonus that it will be again recycled when someone buys it and puts it on their wall or maybe even wears it!

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